Eco-friendly Winter Holiday Tips


I learned about Digi-blocks at the National Conference for Teaching Math (NCTM).

It was held in D.C. the year that I went. My colleague and I stumbled upon a session that was strictly about division. Being 4th and 5th grade teachers at the time, we were eager to find anything that would help our students with an often difficult to teach topic. We saw them, learned about them, and were instantly hooked! Luckily, we work at a school that gives teachers a ton of freedom when ordering supplies. So, I immediately put some on my list for the following school year.

I was on maternity leave for the first half of the year. But as soon as I got back, I spent all of my down time assembling these blocks, getting ready to use them with my students. I also moved into a new position, from 5th grade to K-2 Resource. My original plan for implementing Digi-blocks had to drastically change. So, now I know you must be wondering, what exactly ARE Digi-blocks?

 What are Digi-blocks?

Well, they are base 10 blocks that are built like the Russian dolls that fit into each other. They are a concrete representation of ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands. Each value is small enough to fit 10 inside the next size up and they are organized by color. The reason why I prefer them over base 10 blocks, is because it serves as an additional scaffold for students who have difficulty grasping the fact that 10 ones make up 10, and so on, when using the regular place value blocks, or sticks and circles, I often see in Math books. Some students just aren’t ready for that kind of symbolism and Digi-blocks helps build that true, fundamental number sense that will continue to be built through all ages of elementary school.

For what concepts can Digi-blocks be used?

That’s what’s so great about them, you can use Digi-blocks for virtually ANYTHING!!! From simply counting, creating numbers using place value, comparing numbers, addition and subtraction with regrouping, multiplication, and division. You can use them alongside the standard

algorithm, you can use them as a strategy for problem solving, whatever your little teacher heart may desire. While they are using this, students are able to build that crucial number sense they truly need to be mathematical thinkers. Oh, and let’s not forget about the engagement. I haven’t met a single child who didn’t love using Digi-blocks. They think they’re toys!! Whenever I am teaching a lesson that involves Digi-blocks, we always discuss expectations or the skill for that day, and during this time, students are practically salivating while waiting for me to say, “You may begin.”

Possible Sequence of Digi-block instruction

When introducing Digi-blocks to students, I first ask them to make basic observations about them, without giving them any information beforehand, one round by looking at them, a 2nd round while touching and manipulating them. Then I take down everything they say on a poster. Generally speaking, students 2nd grade and up are able to come to the base 10 conclusion on their own and are able to successfully assign a value to each color block.

Then, in pairs, we construct numbers using the block. Depending on the grade, I may start with double digit numbers and then work my way up. Just having them show me a number being represented using the blocks themselves. This can be paired with a giant whiteboard, split into place value sections to help students with organization. Once students have mastered that, its time to build other skills with the blocks. Below are the following skills I have used Digi-blocks to help students navigate through the concrete-model- abstract progression of mathematical representation.

Identifying Numbers

Skip Counting

Comparing Numbers

Adding (with and without regrouping)

Subtracting (with and without regrouping)

Other Skills that can be taught:

  • Place value rules (10 times more than, 1/10 of)
  • Multiplication and Division problem solving
  • Metric System Measurement

With this resource, the possibilities are truly endless. They are the one tool that I use for Math, no matter what grade level I am supporting, no matter what topic is being learned (aside from money and time). Students love them, they are engaged and are able to make continuous progress in building their number sense and graduating to more abstract representations of numbers.

Don’t forget to visit @teachermomchronicles Instagram “Teacher Life” story highlights for more Digi-block pictures and videos.

Below I have included the link to the Digi-block site, so you can order your own set today!

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